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By Gus Bode

Forget about previous SIU golf teams that have failed to win a conference championship, senior Phillip Collier urges.

‘We’re better than them. Those guys in the past were not even close to as good as we are,’ Collier said.

The Salukis travel Monday to Cape Girardeau, Mo., for the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship at the Dalhousie Golf Club. SIU was projected to finish third by the pre-tournament poll and goes into the tournament in search of its first conference championship since joining the conference in 1975.

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Head coach Leroy Newton said this year’s team is talented enough to reach that goal.

‘We have better talent this year than we have ever had, and they got great experience last season with our finish in conference,’ Newton said.

The Salukis hope their progression in conference during the past several years will finally set the stage for a championship. They have finished in the top-four each of the last four years.

The team had its greatest finish last season, finishing in second place, 22 shots behind Wichita State.

SIU will be led by current MVC Golfer of the Week, senior co-captain Todd Obergoenner, and senior John Danielson. Obergoenner said the team is ready to put aside the past conference struggles and focus on this year’s tournament.

‘You can’t focus too much on the previous championships; those were different teams, different players,’ Obergoenner said. ‘We have a great shot of coming back with the championship.’

The team’s performance leading up to the championship tournament, which includes seven top-five finishes dating back to its fall season, bodes well for SIU’s chances as the team attempts to swing for a title. And though the Salukis have finished outside the top-five their last two tournaments, Danielson said they have already started to erase those memories.

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‘We just had a bad couple of days, it happens to everybody,’ Danielson said. ‘We cannot focus too much on those tournaments.’

The course should also play a factor for the Salukis. Junior Jordan Cox said Dalhousie’s long greens and fairways play well towards the team’s long game. Cox said the course would allow them to out-shoot other Valley contenders.

Newton said the team is confident going into the tournament, and confidence may be the key difference between previous teams.

‘These guys have been here before and almost won it last year,’ he said. ‘They know what they have to do to get it done.’

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